The third book in the Five Hundred Kingdoms fantasy romance series.

Publication year: 2007
Format: Audio
Running time: 10 and 36 minutes
Narrators: Gabra Zackman

Katya is the seventh daughter of the Sea King. The King is a sensible man and knows about the Tradition (the way that fairy tales want to impose their own way onto people and entire nations. So, he’s made sure that none of his children are idle or have cause to complain. All of them have their own careers and important duties according to their talents and interests. Katya, Ekaterina, is a warrior and a spy. She loves to travel to other places and meet new people. She also loves shoes and clothing which aren’t practical in the sea. She’s also very aware of her role as the first line of defense to her nation and family. So, she’s happy to spy.

Sasha is the youngest son of the king of Belrus. As a seventh son, the Tradition takes an exceptional interest in him. Sasha is the Fortunate Fool. His family treats him badly in front of others but amongst themselves they know the very important role Sasha has maintaining the stability of the kingdom. He travels around making sure that the Tradition doesn’t twist anyone to a too bad end but at the same time he knows that the lands can’t be too safe. It’s a balance.

Their romance isn’t dramatic. There are no jealous current or former boy/girlfriends, no misunderstandings that could be solved by one honest discussion, no mooning from afar because the other person can’t possibly be attracted to me or any such “romance” troupes. Nope, they just get together. Great! However, that doesn’t happen right away. Before meeting each other, Katya and Sasha have their own adventures first. Sasha is also trailed by unicorns which were very hilarious in this book.

Both Katya and Sasha are quite dutiful towards their families. If the plot had been different, that could have been a tragedy. But this is feel-good romance and adventure without tragedy. The lovers are very compatible and very cute together. This book immediately jumped into my top courtship romances list (which is very short, anyway). However, I’d love to see them working together now that the whole courtship thing is done.

The book is set in vaguely Russian nations which means that certain old witch makes an appearance. She’s the most terrifying aspect in the book. I thought this story was based on the Little Mermaid but happily, that was not the case. Instead, it does weave together several fairy tales from Japan, Russia, and Arabian Nights. That does feel a little too much at times. Otherwise, I loved this book!

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